The Challenge of Using Messianic Prophecy in Outreach and Apologetics

Introduction

When I was a new Christian, I read several Christian apologetic books that stated there are over 300 Messianic prophecies that are all fulfilled in Jesus.  At the time I thought this was a convincing evidental apologetic for the truth claims of our  faith. But as the years have gone by, I have realized this approach is not as effective as one might think. Now please let me clarify: I do think there is Messianic  prophecy.  Prophecy was one of the primary ways the apostles spread the faith in the first century. However, I think we need to tweak our approach. I have taught on this subject on several occasions.  In my opinion, here are some helpful tips:

 #1:  Messianic prophecy does matter for the following reasons:

1. The Bible is considered to be God’s revelation to mankind. However, The Quran, The Book of Mormon, and other holy books are considered to be God’s word.  Messianic prophecy has apologetic value in that it confirms the Bible as a true revelation.

2. Over the years I have had plenty of people ask me how to go about sharing their faith with others. They always ask whether they should just go ahead and share their personal testimony. I agree that using a personal testimony can be effective in that it shows the difference that Jesus makes in the reality of life. There is nothing wrong with this. But allow me to offer a few suggestions:

Pragmatism has been one of the most prominent philosophies within American culture over the first quarter of the twentieth century. John Dewey was at the forefront of pragmatism within the educational system. For the pragmatist, an idea is said to be true if it “works” or brings desired results. Pragmatism is not as interested if the idea is objectively true, but simply if an idea leads to expedient or practical results.

God can and does use our testimony in a powerful way. In other words, by sharing our testimony, we want to show that faith in Jesus works; He is responsible for transforming the human heart. While it is true that Jesus changes lives, let me share some examples of personal conversations I have had with several people. In a post-modern culture, the  transformed life approach is popular. But it is not the primary way the early apostles reached their audience for the Gospel. The primary way that the apostles established the fact that Jesus was the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament Messianic Promises was their appeal to prophecy and miracle.

2. Historical Verification: Has God revealed Himself in the course of human history? If so, when and where has He done this?

3.  While prophecy does not prove the existence of God, it does show that unusual events predicted in his Name that come to pass are evidence of his special activity.

4. Fulfilled prophecy is a distinctively accessible and a testable kind of miracle. The prophecy was made and its accuracy cannot be explained either causally (for example, on the ground that it brought about its own fulfillment) or as accidental, and hence that it was probably miraculous (see J.L. Mackie in Swinburne, Miracles, 90).

5. Prophecy is used when God wants to demonstrate his true omniscience by demonstrating he is the one talking. He uses prophecy by declaring in advance what the course of future history will hold. This provides a verification test as to who the true God is and that such a writing is from him.

5. The majority of the Jewish community thinks the Messiah has not come. Is this correct?

The Old Way of Using Messianic Prophecy. Like I said, I used to see Messianic Prophecy Charts. They look like this: 

The following is a list of prophecies in the Jewish scriptures that Jesus fulfilled.

 1. Genesis 3:15…..Seed of a woman (virgin birth)…..Luke 1:35, Matthew 1:18-20
2. Genesis 3:15…..He will bruise Satan’s head…..Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 3:8
3. Genesis 5:24….The bodily ascension to heaven illustrated….Mark 6:19
4. Genesis 9:26-27…The God of Shem will be the Son of Shem…Luke 3:36
5. Genesis 12:3…As Abraham’s seed, will bless all nations…Acts 3:25,26
6. Genesis 12:7…The The Promise made made to Abraham’s Seed…Galatians 3:16
7. Genesis 14:18…A priest after Melchizedek…Hebrews 6:20
8. Genesis 14:18……..A King also……..Hebrews 7:2
9. Genesis 14:18…The Last Supper foreshadowed…Matthew 26:26-29
10.  Genesis 17:19…….The Seed of Isaac…….Romans. 9:7
11.  Genesis 21:12 …Seed of Isaac…Romans 9:7, Hebrews 11:18
12.  Genesis 22:8…The Lamb of God promised…John 1:29
13.  Genesis 22:18…As Isaac’s seed, will bless all nations…Galatians 3:16
14.  Genesis26:2-5..The Seed of Isaac promised as the Redeemer..Hebrews11:18
15.  Genesis 49:10…The time of His coming…Luke 2:1-7; Galatians 4:4
16.  Genesis 49:10…….The Seed of Judah…….Luke 3:33
17.  Genesis 49:10……Called Shiloh or One Sent……John 17:3
18.  Genesis 49:10…To come before Judah lost identity…John 11:47-52
19.  Genesis 49:10…To Him shall the obedience of the people be…John 10:16
20.  Exodus 3:13,14……..The Great “I Am”…….John 4:26
21.  Exodus 12:5…A Lamb without blemish…1 Pet. 1:19
22.  Exodus 12:13…The blood of the Lamb saves Romans wrath…Romans. 5:8
23.  Exodus 12:21-27…Christ is our Passover…1 Corinthians 5;7
24.  Exodus 12:46…Not a bone of the Lamb to be broken…John 19:31-36
25.  Exodus 13:2…Blessing to first born son…Luke 2:23
26.  Exodus 15:2…His exaltation predicted as Yeshua…Acts 7:55,56
27.  Exodus 15:11…His Character-Holiness…Luke 1:35; Acts 4:27
28.  Exodus 17:6…The Spiritual Rock of Israel…1 Corinthians 10;4
29.  Exodus 33:19…His Character-Merciful…Luke 1:72
30.  Leviticus14:11…The leper cleansed-Sign to priesthood..Luke5:12-14; Acts 6:7
31.  Leviticus16:15-17…Prefigures Christ’s once-for-all death…Hebrews 9:7-14
32.  Leviticus16:27…Suffering outside the Camp…Matthew 27:33; Hebrews 13:11, 12
33.  Leviticus17:11…The Blood-the life of the flesh…Matthew 26;28; Mark 10:45
34.  Leviticus17:11…It is the blood that makes atonement…1 John 3:14-18
35.  Leviticus23:36-37…The Drink-offering: “If any man thirst.” ..John 19:31-36
36.  Numbers 9:12…Not a bone of Him broken…John 19:31-36
37.  Numbers 21:9…The serpent on a pole-Christ lifted up…John 3:14-18
38.  Numbers 24:8… Flight to Egypt…Matthew 2:14
39.  Numbers 24:17…Time: “I shall see him, but not now.”…Galatians 4:4
40.  Numbers 24:17-19…A star out of Jacob…Matthew 2:2, Luke 1:33,78, Revelation 22:16
41.  Deuteronomy 18:15…”This is of a truth that prophet.”…John 6:14
42.  Deuteronomy 18:15-16…”Had ye believed Moses, ye would believe me.”…John 5:45-47
43.  Deuteronomy 18:18…Sent by the Father to speak His word…John 8:28, 29
44.  Deuteronomy 18:19…Whoever will not hear must bear his sin…John 12:15
45.  Deuteronomy 21:13-23…As a prophet…John 6:14; 7:40, Acts 3:22,23
46.  Deuteronomy 21:23…Cursed is he that hangs on a tree…Galatians 3:10-13
47.  Ruth 4:4-9…Christ, our kinsman, has redeemed us…Ephesians 1:3-7
48.  1 Samuel 2:10…Shall be an anointed King to the Lord…Matthew 28:18; John 12:15
49.  2 Samuel 7:12…David’s Seed…Matthew 1:1
50.  2 Samuel 7:14a…The Son of God… Luke 1:32
So what is the problem with this approach? 

1 It doesn’t look at passages in the immediate context.

2. It sometimes doesn’t take into account the original audience that the prophecy or passage was written to.

3. Some of the passages aren’t really prophecies.

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